President Vladimir Putin has vowed to punish the killers of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov as Russian opposition figures denounced what they called a “political murder” and Western leaders called for a full probe.
The 55-year-old former deputy premier, a vocal Putin critic prominent at opposition rallies, was shot in the back several times just before midnight on Friday as he walked across a bridge a stone’s throw from the Kremlin walls.
The brazen assassination is the latest in a string of murders of opposition figures in Putin’s 15 years in power and recalls the shooting of anti-Kremlin reporter Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down on Putin’s birthday in October 2006.
Putin blamed the latest killing on foes trying to discredit the Kremlin, but vowed in a message to the victim’s mother to do all he could so “the organisers and perpetrators of a vile and cynical murder get the punishment they deserve.”
Allies of Nemtsov, a longtime anti-corruption crusader who served as deputy premier under Boris Yeltsin, linked his death to his opposition to the Kremlin’s policies.
Hours before the killing, he had gone on a popular radio station to urge people to join an opposition rally on Sunday calling for “an immediate end to the war in Ukraine.”
The rally has now been cancelled and Russia’s opposition will hold a march in memory of Nemtsov through central Moscow in the afternoon, crossing the bridge where he died.
“There is already a list of unsolved political murders and attacks in Russia,” Amnesty International said. “We cannot allow Boris Nemtsov to become just another name on this list.”
Investigators said gunmen fired at least eight shots from a car as Nemtsov walked with a woman named by Russian media as 23-year-old Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya, who was unhurt.
Footage aired by Russian TVC channel from a distant camera showed someone, suspected to be the killer, running along the road and jumping into a waiting car which then sped off.
The camera angle left Nemtsov and his companion hidden from view.
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